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Brad's Blog

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May 1
    The weather's headed towards balmy again for a couple of days, and I thought all the snow was gone from town, until I saw a few piles on the north side of large buildings.
    With the warm weather I've started work on a chicken contraption.  For years I've wanted a portable cage for the hens, but by the time I've built everything including roost, roof, feeder, and nesting boxes, it's been too heavy to move.  The one we built last summer seemed too heavy for three of us to lift.  Then last week I had the idea of adding wheels, thinking of ones like lawnmowers use.  But we only had one on hand, so then bicycle wheels became a far better idea, as I always save a few of them around, they bear a lot of weight, and they don't get hung up on bumps.  So tonight I built the first of two wheel modules.  Each one has two bicycle wheels in a line, sandwiched between two pieces of plywood spaced with 2 by 4s.  They can be screwed onto the existing structure, which should then roll to fresh pasture every couple days.  I have to make the ladder up to the roost, and the feeding/water station float above the ground on boards to make it all functional.  I hope to finish it tomorrow, and will probably take a picture to share...

May 2
chicken coop on wheels
So here's the chicken coop on wheels.  The wheels are sandwiched between two sheets of plywood with a T shape of 2 by 4 for interior spacing and support.  The nesting box and perch at the left end are for our one hen that was ostrasized from the flock.  It pushes easily with one person.  The chickens were outside when I moved it, but they could migrate along with it inside. (Note from 2011--one wheel per side would have been a better design--with two wheels it's too hard to turn)
    It's been a complicated day.  I went down to the lake to look at the spring flowers and birds.  As soon as I got there, I saw a wood duck pair, beautiful birds.  I started taking pictures and the low  battery indicator came on the camera, so I had to return home (hiking up the hill) to get the battery.  When I got back, the ducks were gone.  But I saw lots of trillium, yellow violets, and ospreys.
    When I got back, I finished the chicken coop, and had breakfast.
Then I worked on pottery, finishing soap dishes and berry bowls from yesterday, and unloading 2 glaze kilns.  In the afternoon, while waiting for customers, I watched the Matthew Broderick Music Man video(far inferior to the Robert Preston version--I wonder why they bothered).
    Now I'm eating supper while waiting for a woman to arrive to learn how to edit the folklore society webpages, after which I'm tagging along with her to a jam I've never been to previously.  Meanwhile Emil is gone to the Prom tonight, the pinnacle of American youth experience (which I never experienced.)  He's never worn a suit before.
wood duck pair
These are the wood ducks

May 5
rufous sided towhee
Here's a photo of a rufous sided towhee, one of a pair poking around outside our dining area this morning.  If you click on the photo, it takes you to a previously blogged photo of a prettier setting with one, but this one probably shows more details.  As I keep taking photos of spring flowers or birds, I slowly improve the quality of my collection (if only I had time to organize and clean out the dross).
We got a $20 dump truck load of horse manure a couple days ago, and I've been spreading it over a new bed in our front yard, which will get planted with strawberries, freeing up a good section of our garden in a year or so when they start producing.  The manure is quite fresh and pungent, which makes me glad our only near neighbors also use manure (recommended the source, in fact).  We got a good rain last night, which helps leach the nutrients into the soil from the manure...  It's a shame we couldn't leave it piled up for a couple weeks--it was really steamy hot inside from microbial action, but it will slowly decompose spread out, as well.  

May  6
robin

    The robin is so common I seldom photograph it, but the setting for this photo was perfect with the grass widow flowers...
    It's raining lots, which is great for greening things up.  I do need to spread manure and set up the garden sometime soon...  I finished the 6th session of the preschool reading program on an up note--attendance remained good throughout, and parents that missed sessions showed up to get the materials they missed out on.  I hope it helps their children succeed in reading in school...

May 7
The little hen who lives separate and free seems particularly happy.  She roams about the neighboring yards, where they're all happy to see her. In the evening, she needs help to get up into her nesting box, so she waits in the area for one of us to pick her up and set her there.  She's surprisingly comfortable with human handling.  She lays a large egg every day in an easily accessible place in our rhododendron bushes...

May 8
stream violets, North Idaho
Today's little patch of turf is Stream Violets, growing in the deep moist woods along the Mill Pond.  I also saw the first Calypso orchids in the same area today, as well as loads of Spring Beauties,  Prairie Stars, Trillium, Glacier lilies, and the first blooming Camas.  When looking in the Spring woods, I use my eyes and ears as much as my feet.  Calypso orchids are easy to overlook.  It was great weather for a change.
    I also edited the Library kids' video which I asked them to make to promote our summer reading program.

May 10
    We got half an inch of rain today, which I was hoping for, since I transplanted strawberries and rhubarb into my front yard yesterday.  Because of my philosophy of minimum tillage, it didn't take long to plant the whole bed Sunday evening.  After throwing manure over the whole area, I dug up plugs of strawberries where ever they were without weeds from the old bed, and plunked them in at about 3 foot intervals in the new bed.  I'm not expecting any strawberries from them this summer, but hopefully by next year we can cover up the old bed with manure and grow something like corn there.
    I just checked last year's May blog, and the cherry trees are blossoming now, a few days ahead of last year.  I've been thinking I need to put the bedding plants out later this week--it hasn't frosted for a couple weeks (though it may through the end of the month).  The forecast for tomorrow includes snow showers, so later in the week sounds good, including the forecasted 70's for the weekend and 80 by next Monday...

May 12
    I've been getting some larger orders lately, including a dinnerset with lots of extras today, so it helps keep me motivated to producing pottery.  
    I also started spreading manure on the main part of the garden today, with hopes of planting it soon...  
    At the library the state evaluator for our reading program stopped in to visit.   He wondered what our library is doing to reach out to teens.  My latest idea is a creative club, combining various artistic things, most of which I'm proficient at.

May 14
    We had an inch of rain overnight, and more falling today, making about 2.5 inches in the last week.  The native grasses in the yard are about a foot tall, whereas the bluegrass is still moderate, but it's clearly time to try out the mower, when things dry out.   We're reducing the amount of lawn to mow, by increasing garden and flower bed space.  I'd rather be weeding than mowing...
clown
    The art project for the 1-3 grade children today was to make a clown using colored pieces of construction paper which I'd cut out in various shapes. They could choose colors and location, and several chose to just color in a face with markers or add more hair and the bow tie as a bow to change the sex of the clown.  The sample above was the one I made to demonstrate what it should sort of look like.  Afterwards I was thinking of Henri Matisse.  When I was growing up I had a copy of The Sorrows of the King on the wall of my bedroom.  I never knew the title, or that it was from his "cut out" period when his eyesight was failing so he cut out colored paper to make his art.   Anyway, the thought of what I did with the kids tied in with Matisse, and also with my senior art project, Art as a beourgeious Sham, in which I postulated  "art for everybody" art kits so anyone can make art.
So here I am, making art kits for kids...
    Then it's art night at the local elementary, so I stop in to see if there are any art processes worth stealing, and the 6th grade teacher has cut out construction paper art and a little note next to it talking about Matisse's cut out art.   Fun coincidence...

May 15
One more thing about the Matisse painting.  The copy I had growing up was about two feet wide.  When I toured Europe in college I was blown away to find the original on a stair landing in the Louvre large as life--about 10 feet wide, as I recall...

May 16
Musical friends Frank and Maddie came and visited for a while today, with a retinue of sorts.  They're frequent blog readers, so after reading about how I like corned beef hash Frank researched what the world's best hash is, and found the one store in Spokane that stocked it, and brought me a can.  I'm looking forward to it, but it's a bit of a contradiction in terms to talk about "best" and "hash" together.
    Anyway, with the fine weather approaching 70, there were lots of customers today, and I also worked in the garden for several hours.  I planted out half of the cauliflowers, broccolis, and tomatoes, on the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" theory.  Between deer and frosts, the more diversity the better.  I also for the first time alternated tomatoes with brassicas (cabbage family), thinking that when the brassicas finish up, the tomatoes will have more room in August.
    I got in another woods walk--the camas is blooming, and the first Virgin's Bower.  But the best wildflowers are done.  Fortunately, the domestic flowers are just beginning, to take up the slack in the natural beauty department.  The geese have their fresh batch of goslings, but I didn't get a nice shot like in previous years of them in a line on the lake.

May 18
Atrociously lovely weather today.  The fresh manure that I laid in the front yard as a bed for strawberries is coming up to grass.  Another good reason to leave it to compost in a heap, where the heat can kill weed seeds...   Hopefully it will hoe easily.

May 19
Due to some large orders, I've now fired 3 bisques in a row, which might make 4 or 5 glaze firings in a row.  That actually works out well this week, because things like a dental appointment today, kindergarten registration tomorrow (I go and represent the library), and an Ascension service planned at our lakeview cabin for Thursday, make for a short week.  It's difficult to throw pots if you can't deal with them the next day--they have to be well covered with plastic to keep from drying out too much.  So glazing can be done in the odd hour that's available...
This evening I managed to squeeze in planting more broccolis and cauliflowers and tomatoes.  I'd love to get the whole garden planted this week, but chances are slim.  Still, it's a motivator to work until dusk...

May 20
    A young moose went trotting through our block just after breakfast this morning.  I was excited enough to start yelling  "MOOSE!"  It was fast enough that Emil just caught a glimpse of it trotting up the street.  If it was a deer I wouldn't have even commented.  Actually the lack of deer has been nice for a while--I expect them back when the garden's slightly bigger.
    I was setting out more tomatoes this evening when I noticed our pet hen out pecking on the broccolis and cauliflowers I'd put out last night.  I should have known she'd like them, since I'd throw in the leftover plants to the chickens in the fall...  I haven't figured out a solution yet.  I hate to put her in with the other hens, who peck her.

May 21
     I "dodged a bullet" last night, as there was light frost on the very night I put out the last tomatoes.  They seem unaffected... I'm working on spreading the rest of the horse manure so I can plant the row crops this weekend.
    I've fired the second glaze in a row--might be as much as two more glazes possible from the pots that were bisqued.

May 23
The movie cliche is that the guy is shot at, says, "Ha ha, you missed me," then looks down to see the blood streaming out.  After writing about "dodging the bullet," I checked the tomatoes in the evening and over half of them had frosted.  The miracles were the ones 3 feet away that didn't.  Frost drainage patterns are weird.  Anyway today I was getting ready to go on  a trip to Denver, lamenting that I didn't know where locally I could get some more tomato plants, and a neighbor came by to return a couple items she'd borrowed.  Since she gardens, I mentioned how I'd had most of my tomatoes frosted, and she welcomed me to all I wanted.  I knew she often starts huge quantities of tomatoes, but had forgotten.  So now I'm more ready for the 16-18 hours of driving it will take to go pick my son up from his ski Mecca.  On the way back we plan to stop through Yellowstone, and probably Grand Teton National Parks, so I hope to have some nice Springtime in the Rockies photos to show for it.  I also hope I can identify a few wildflowers while motoring...

May 27
\Grand Teton from Jenny Lake
I had a great trip to Colorado to pick up  my son.  He worked as a ski instructor at Keystone and skied more than 200 days this winter.   He rented a room in a condo for a lot of money, then scrimped on food and rode the free bus to sustain his chosen dream.
    I've posted a few photos from the journey at my Picasa photo page.  The photo shown above is the classic view of Grand Teton from Jenny Lake.  It's so close no fancy lenses or cameras are needed to take the beautiful picture.  You can see that the weather was lovely.
    But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I drove down to Colorado (1100 miles) by myself, sleeping a few hours at a rest area in southern Idaho. It being Memorial Day weekend, I was apprehensive about the traffic, but it was only bad on I-80, particularly in the rain, which was frequent.  On the smaller 2 lanes the drive was much more pleasant.  It was about 18 hours of driving.
    When I got to my son's place, we drove around a few of the ski areas like Breckinridge and Keystone that he frequented (he had an employee pass good at a lot of them).  I saw how the area is being devastated by a beetle infestation killing millions of lodgepole pine trees.  It's a tragedy in slow motion--the trees are dying now, with brown needles.  The huge fire danger that the dead trees represent is the next stage.  They're debating what to do about it...
    The next morning we checked out of his apartment and started the drive to Grand Teton--Yellowstone National Parks.  We'd been there before, but probably 10 years or more ago...  On the way, a very back route, we crossed the Continental Divide (which determines whether water drains to the Atlantic or Pacific) 11 or more times.  We thought we counted every one, but if so, all the water at home should be headed to the Atlantic.  There were places on the map where the Continental Divide made a circle, presumably there was a black hole in the middle sucking everything towards it.
    We decided to camp at Grand Teton Park.  Most of the park is on the east side of the stunning range of rugged mountains, which means at sunset the mountains are dark and back lit. So in the morning we drove to Jenny Lake to get the classic photo.
    Yellowstone is like a really big zoo without bars, and then there are the geysers.  Being a world attraction, it's set up for huge numbers of people, which is part of why early Spring is a nice time to visit, before the traffic is bad.  We did wonder if we were too early when we entered the park and there was 3 feet of snow lining the roadway.  But everyplace we stopped was warm, sunny, and snowfree, mostly.   Yellowstone lake was frozen, except the part where the thermal features release hot water into the lake...  At this time of year, the grasses are just greening, so the bison and elk are in the lowlands and often near the thermal zones.  We saw lots of elk and bison.
    On the Picasa Photo page, there are also photos of two small birds.  The brownish one is a chipping sparrow, which I'd only identified last week, so it was fun to see and photograph it there.  The other warbler sized bird, with a yellow spot on its head and throat,  is another new one, so I posted it to a birder's group for identification, since I couldn't spot it in the book.  (Got the name already:Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler
    There were many nice spring wild flowers in spots, but with the many hours to drive I did only enjoy them as they passed by.   There was a lot of balsam root  (yellow sunflower looking plants) everywhere.  Where we camped in the Tetons Spring Beauties were all around us.
    Upon returning home, a freshman college godchild and two of her friends were visiting, so we stayed up late and got up early with them. Since then I've done a lot of gardening, and enjoyed the warmest weather of our trip, right here at home (70 degrees F...

May 28
Back to work in the pottery and library today.  A couple days off make it easier to get back in the saddle again.  Plus the balmy weather and good sales over the Memorial Day weekend make pottery making a priority.  I made large pitchers,  small mugs, and chicken pots today.
    Speaking of chickens, one of the hens died while I was gone.  This seems to happen with chickens, especially older ones.  One of them hadn't been laying for years, and by yesterday's egg count it must have been the one that died.  But today there were only 2 eggs from the 4 hens, so they're apparently in mourning, although they never seem bothered by a dead comrade...
    I tied up the raspberry canes to stakes and a fence in the garden.  Some years I do this--others not...  The variety that we grow has strong canes, but a lot were bent over pretty well by the  snow last winter, so I decided to tie them up to keep the berries cleaner.
    The cherry trees are done blooming, and I put nylon stockings on as many of the branches as I could yesterday, to protect them from the cherry maggots.  The apple trees are in full bloom...

May 29
It was the hottest day so far this year (87F or 30C).  The air conditioning wasn't working in the library.  Maybe there's some switch to flip somewhere.  In spite or because of the heat there were lots of patrons at the library (they're called patrons because what else would you call them--customers?)  Even though I have a slight break before the summer reading program, there are 4 kindergarden and 1st grade visits happening next week.  Also today I discovered a lot of the toys I ordered for the summer reading program were on backorder.  Fortunately we've planned to give a lot of books this summer, and the program itself should be good--creativity is the theme, and I'm well suited to the task.  I've been writing a puppet script for Cinderella that I'm hoping some 6th graders can perform in 3 weeks...  I'm also scheduled to visit other local libraries with a music program...  It looks to be a busy summer...

May 30
It seems as hot today as yesterday.  I assembled pots from yesterday and glazed two kilnloads, trying to keep up with orders.
A few plants got nipped in the garden by deer, so it's time to put up my haphazard fishing line deer defense.  This consists of some sticks for poles with heavy fishline between them.  Even deer don't like walking into fishing line, and won't jump it for the most part..
    I also repaired my old garden cart today-replacing a handle, giving it a sturdier backing of plywood.  The cart   has gone through a lot of Frankenstein like reincarnations.  I fantasize about starting with a fresh 4X8 sheet of plywood and a 2X4 and seeing what that might look like as a garden cart (sort of a Bauhaus design exercise).


Books read and other media of note
Brimstone by Robert B. Parker  The third in the new western series--this one, as the name suggests, the darkest of the lot.  The two gunslinger protagonists, caught up in their own moral lapses, still try to straighten out a twisted world...

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
 It's seldom that fantasies involving ghosts, animal spirits, and crooked artist representatives are successful romances (given the disparate elements, that's a reasonable assumption).  But this complicated story by Neil Gaiman is one of his best.  He is always a good story teller-some of the stories are better than others.  This one, of Anansi the spider's human sons, is very good, but probably suffers from being too adult for children's literature, and too commonplace for fantasy fans...

The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater.  
The title is a wordplay on the Illiad.  It is your typical boy saves world from cosmic disaster story, except it's so delightfully underplayed.  No one is ever worked up about the impending doom, ghosts, or wicked henchmen.  At the climax, the shaman named Melvin who's been guiding the hero, leaves to go bowling with some other shamans. Is that brilliant or what?  It's also chock full of enough 1950's cultural references to deserve an annotated edition.  I'm looking forward to the sequel out this year--The Yggisey.

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Another fine and funny adventure, slowly improving on the formula, with the mystery of her jerk ex husband's disappearance.

Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke  
Burke writes hard boiled police detective fiction, continuing in the tradition where one man seeks out the truth amidst the corruption and indifference of the system.  In this case, most of his novels are set in New Orleans, exploring the potent issues of race and class, with powerful descriptive prose reminiscent of Faulkner.

Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke   Another interesting thing about the author is his use of mythic imagery such as Pegasus (above) and the biblical Legion demoniac (in this book).  Also as a first person narrative, he puts in details about his family, such as his daughter Alafair, that can be verified (such as that she went to Reed College in Oregon).  Alafair has also become a writer, as well as a lawyer, assistant D.A, and law professor.  His latest book, Swan Peak, is set in Montana, where he also has a vacation home, so I look forward to reading about an environment less foreign to me than southern Louisiana.
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